Is Spain’s anthem going to finally get words? Don’t be silly!

Last Sunday, Spanish pop star Marta Sanchez caused a sensation in her country by doing something simple: singing her national anthem.

Why was it so special? Because Spain’s anthem doesn’t actually have any words so singing it is a bit hard. Marta added some she’d written herself while homesick in the US.

The performance, above, is powerful stuff, as are her lyrics. “I come home to my beloved homeland, where my heart was born,” she starts. “Today I sing to tell you all the pride I have. My love grows every time I leave.

“Red and yellow, are the colours that shine in my heart,” she went on, referring to Spain’s flag. “God I thank you for being born here… And if someday I can’t come back, save me a place to rest.”


The positive reaction wasn’t just seen in the concert hall. Millions watched clips of her singing it, while politicians also jumped in on the act. Here’s a tweet from the leader of Spain’s main opposition party:

So is her effort going to be adopted? Er, no. Spain’s anthem, adopted in 1770, only ever had lyrics once – under Franco’s dictatorship – and few want to be reminded of those days. The country’s also too divided – see Catalunya’s recent independence referendum – for any to be agreed (are Basques going to be happy singing a song in Castilian?).

A petition to get the anthem lyrics, for instance, has only collected a paltry 12,000 signatures since it was launched in 2015.

How are Europe’s other wordless anthems getting on? Well, San Marino’s is ticking along; Kosovo’s still doesn’t have words – the strangely titled Europe – even as the country celebrates its 10th birthday; and neither does Bosnia’s.

Some Bosnian politicians did begin an initiative this month to give their anthem words, but that looks destined to fail. It’s election year in the country, and no ethnic-Serb politician is going to endorse such a move, since many of their voters actually want their own country or to become part of Serbia.

The website Balkan Insight actually got one Serb politician to basically say just that this month:

“This initiative is nothing more than a circus,” she said. “We have already tried to reach a text for the anthem, and everything has turned into a farce. This time it will be the same.”

If you want to read more about the bizarre stories of Bosnia’s and Kosovo’s anthems, the people behind them, and their significance, then buy my book!

Should Cataluña become independent? Let its anthem decide!

Cataluña – the nice part of Spain that includes Barcelona – is once again making a fuss about becoming independent, partly because of Spain’s economic crisis.

It actually can’t; Spain’s constitution doesn’t allow regions to split off.

But ignoring that little stumbling block, should it be allowed to? Let’s decide by having a look at the most important of issues: its proposed national anthem, Els Segadors!

The music: If Cataluña were a place where the sun only shone once a year, and where there was little hope of even weeds growing – Siberia, perhaps – Els Segadors (The Reapers) would be perfect.

My God it’s depressing, full of minor chords tumbling downwards as if the orchestra’s been made to play while trudging through mud.

It was written in the 1640s when Cataluña began fighting an uprising against the rest of Spain. Most of the Catalans involved were actually peasants armed with little more than the sickles they used to cut fields. Perhaps the person who wrote it realised there was little chance of them winning, so wrote an anthem to soundtrack their doom.

The lyrics: You only need the briefest scan of Els Segadors’ lyrics to see why Catalans love it. It basically gives the rest of Spain, and especially the Castilians of Madrid, a mighty kicking.

“Drive away these people who are so conceited and so contemptful,” it says. “Strike with your sickle!”

It certainly beats Spain’s anthem, la Marcha Real. Although as that doesn’t have any words, it’s at a bit of a disadvantage.

Is the song good enough to allow Catalonia independence? Clearly no! A new country needs optimism and hope in an anthem, not a song that makes you want to lock yourself indoors with a bottle of pills and several bottles of gin. Someone tell Artur Mas – Cataluña’s president – to commission something new!